By Tara Chance
One of the best-loved and most-acclaimed programs of all time and
beloved by audiences in more than 70 countries, Upstairs Downstairs is
the enchanting saga of the aristocratic Bellamy family (upstairs) and
their loyal and lively servants (downstairs). This seminal British
television series is just as enjoyable now as when it first aired in the
Richard, Lady Marjorie, and their son James comprise the aristocratic
Bellamy family that reside upstairs while their loyal servants maintain
the household from downstairs. The series follows the upper-class family's
troubles as times change and the ongoing lives of their resilient staff.
Clean, clear, and presented in order, the third season's 13 episodes
follow the London household through the prewar years (1912-1914).
In these episodes, Hudson (Gordon Jackson) gives notice over James's
(Simon Williams) luncheon with his father's typist, Miss Forrest (Meg Wynn
Owen), who helps run the household after Lady Marjorie dies aboard the
R.M.S. Titanic. Tensions again erupt when another family strives to
hire Hudson away and Miss Forrest refuses James's marriage proposal,
afraid of a past secret. Former servant Alfred reappears, taking a hostage
when Hudson discovers he is wanted for murder, and a French countess is
romantically interested in Richard's money until James exposes the truth.
James's new wife, Hazel Forrest, resolves a stock-trading scandal, but
remains uneasy with her new society position, particularly while fox
hunting at Lord and Lady Newbury's country estate. A disregard for class
differences nearly ends in disaster during Georgina Worsley's (Lesley-Anne
Down) holiday visit, and a casual remark by the Bellamys' footman Edward
erupts into a scandal that threatens Parliament's Tory constituency. Rose
(Jean Marsh) almost marries an Australian sheep farmer, and James's rocky
marriage must survive Hazel's miscarriage. In July 1914, when war looms,
James looks to rejoin his regiment to escape his troubled marriage; Mrs.
Bridges (Angela Baddeley) has a suitor and two servants, Edward and Daisy,
defy the downstairs' rules by falling in love.
Richard, his son James, and James's wife, Hazel, comprise the aristocratic
Bellamy family that resides upstairs while their loyal servants maintain
the London household from downstairs. These episodes, set in 1914 to 1918,
during the Great War, follow the upper class family's troubles in changing
times and the ongoing lives of their resilient staff. The fourth season is
more soapy than the previous ones and is best viewed in order. Outstanding
cast performances and the dramatic backdrop of the war give this season
its reputation as the best of the five.
Due to limited filming budgets, the war is largely seen through
home-front activities. While James and Edward serve on the frontlines, the
rest of the family participates in the war effort as best they can, busy
with tea parties for wounded officers, charity shows, and attempts to
shelter refugees. Surprising everyone, Ruby even leaves to build
munitions, only to return after an explosion at the factory. Marriages and
tragedies ensue, affecting both upstairs and downstairs at 165 Eaton
Place. As the Great War concludes, and things begin to settle down,
England celebrates the Armistice and the Bellamy family contemplates the
end of an era and the changes to come.
Richard, his new wife Virginia, and recently widowed son James comprise
the aristocratic Bellamy family who resides upstairs while their loyal
servants maintain the London household from downstairs. These final 16
episodes cover the swinging '20s to the stock market crash (1919-30). The
episodes of the fifth season are more self-contained than other seasons'
and every bit as entertaining.
The household mood reflects the events of the day--jubilation at the
armistice, a fancy-dress party amidst the gaiety of the early '20s,
divided allegiances during the general strike of 1926, the fever of stock
market wealth, and overnight ruin in October 1929. James, with too much
time and money on his hands, is single again and up to his usual antics.
Nor is life dull for the other members of the household--Hudson almost
resigns his position after he's caught holding hands with Lily, the
housemaid, and Georgina winds up in court after she hits and kills a man
while taking a group of irresponsible socialites to Sussex in the
Bellamys' Rolls. While James and Richard focus their political activities
outside the home, Edward and Frederick vie to see who will fill in for
Hudson while he recuperates from his heart attack. Finally, after the
market crash and James's subsequent death, the family is forced to sell
165 Eaton Place to pay off his creditors. The series ends with Rose
locking up the empty house, closing the door on one of TV's most popular
and acclaimed shows. Whether you first met the Bellamys and their
delightfully enjoyable downstairs entourage in the 1970s or are just
getting to know them now, the superb acting and compelling character
development will always be the real reason to watch Upstairs Downstairs.